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Farmland Finder: Value in a name

Farmland Finder

There was nothing wrong with Terva.Ag, the Ames-based company that serves as an online marketplace for agriculture real estate in Iowa.

But when the software was upgraded, an opportunity to rebrand the company presented itself.

“After talking with customers and clients, brand recognition is really important and we wanted something that was more descriptive of what we help people do,” founder Steven Brockshus says.

So Terva.Ag turned into

The software update to essentially split the product into two sides, Brockshus explained. The customer-facing side allows users to search and find any property for sale in Iowa, for free. Properties can be compared to others in the same county and a new feature allows users to contact a local agent to get more information about the land.

The business-to-business side sells access to historical sales data to farmland professionals.

“Before, we saw the product all as one,” Brockshus says. “But as we started digging into it, our messaging wasn’t very clear and it was hard to describe what you get for free and have to pay for. So we learned if we make more of it accessible, make it more robust and streamlined for folks trying to find land for sale, we can build up that side of the business.”

Having a growth mindset

The focus is going to remain on Iowa but Brockshus said by the end of 2018 he’d like to provide the service for other Midwest states.

“There’s a lot happening in the space right now,” Brockshus says.

Brockshus said he was able to raise a pre-seed round of funding with a group of Iowa angel investors and will start another funding round by the end of the year to scale the business. He did not want to disclose any deal specifics.

“It’s been great having people right here in the state get behind the idea,” Brockshus said.

Leveraging available resources

Brockshus views himself as a result of Iowa’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

He originally started Terva.Ag in 2015 as a student at Iowa State University, in an ag entrepreneurship class. He took advantage of resources at Iowa State University and in the Ames startup community, plus Venture School at the University of Iowa. Brockshus was also a winner at a pitch competition in Western Iowa.

“I feel like I’ve benefited from everyone trying to work together,” Brockshus says. “There’s resources no matter what side of the fence you are on, I’m just grateful to be plugged into all different communities in Iowa. And I know that’s something a lot of communities are working on, to work better with different communities.”

Previous Coverage

Startup Stories: Buying and selling land through Terva.Ag – Nov. 21, 2017

Terva, Smart Ag among nine startups receiving funding – Sept. 25, 2017

ISU grad starts Terva. Ag – July 5, 2017







Farmland Finder: Value in a name | Clay & Milk
A central Iowa ag-tech accelerator has secured more backers and finally has a name. The Greater Des Moines Partnership first announced the accelerator last year, naming four initial investors. On Monday, the Partnership said the program will be called the "Iowa AgriTech Accelerator" and named three new investors. The new investors include Grinnell Mutual, Kent Corp. and Sukup Manufacturing, all Iowa companies. They join investors Deere & Co., Peoples Co., Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Co. and DuPont Pioneer. Each investor has agreed to put up $100,000 for the first year of the accelerator. Startups entering the program will receive $40,000 in seed funding in exchange for 6 percent equity. Tej Dhawan, an angel investor and local startup mentor, is serving as interim director until the AgriTech Accelerator names a permanent leader. Dhawan held a similar role with the GIA before Brian Hemesath was named as managing director. As interim director, Dhawan said his main job includes hiring the accelerator's executive director, establishing a business structure and initial recruiting for the first cohort. The accelerator will place few filters, such as location and product, on the applicant pool, Dhawan said. "When you’re seeking innovation, innovation can come from every corner of the world so why restrict ourselves," he said. One area the the AgriTech Accelerator won't recruit from is biotech. For its first cohort, the AgriTech Accelerator will work out of the GIA's space in Des Moines' East Village, Dhawan said. A future, permanent home is still to be decided. The accelerator's program will host startups from mid-July through mid-October, ending with an event connected to the annual World Food Prize. The GIA, which the AgriTech Accelerator is based on, also ends with presentations at an industry event. The accelerator has also started lining up a mentor pool. The Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association and the Iowa Pork Producers Association have agreed to provide mentors, as has Iowa State University. While the AgriTech Accelerator is loosely based off of the GIA, it will differ in its business structure, Dhawan said. The GIA runs through a for-profit model for both operations and its investment fund. The AgriTech Accelerator will have a nonprofit model for its operations and a for-profit setup for its fund. Dhawan said the nonprofit model is being used so the accelerator can better work with other nonprofit partners, such as trade associations. "These are all organizations that are nonprofits and can be amazing stakeholders without ever having to be investors in the accelerator," he said. "It becomes easier to work with trade associations in their nonprofit role when we are also a nonprofit." When it's up and running, the AgriTech Accelerator would be one of a handful of ag-focused startup development programs in Iowa. Others include the Ag Startup Engine out of Iowa State University and the Rural Ventures Alliance from Iowa MicroLoan. Matthew Patane is the managing editor and co-founder of Clay & Milk. Send him an email at
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